The year is 1990 and The Bronx area of New York has been isolated and cordoned off from the rest of the city, leaving it a desolate wasteland of ruins and dangerous gangs. Into this perilous situation stumbles the runaway daughter of a millionaire arms dealer, Ann (Stefania Girolami), who is looking to flee her responsibilities before she inherits her fortune and her place at the head of a company that makes enormous wealth from death and destruction, although if that is what she was trying to avoid, then she might have wound up in the wrong part of town...
Another of writer and director Enzo G. Castellari's action spectaculars, 1990: The Bronx Warriors (or 1990: I guerrieri del Bronx if you preferred the original title) looked quite plainly to be the work of people who were much impressed by Walter Hill's The Warriors and John Carpenter's Escape from New York. From the former were the gangs with their own distinctive looks, and a journey through their territories, and from the latter was the whole notion of part of the Big Apple descending into anarchy, with a mission to retrieve someone as part of that.
The mission belongs to top-billed Vic Morrow as Hammer, here in his second to last film before his fatal accident on the set of Twilight Zone: The Movie, but not actually appearing that often. We know he is meant to be tracking down Ann, and it becomes clear that he is the only one with a gun in the whole district. Not only that, but he is not afraid to use it, in fact he's very keen, blowing away various bystanders on his travels with very little rhyme or reason. Meanwhile, Ann falls in with the leader of a group of bikers who save her from a gang called The Zombies.
And obviously The Zombies dress as... er, well, not zombies but rollerskaters with white bowler hats. You might have guessed. As for the bikers, they are led by the not at all camp, oh no, Trash (Mark Gregory) who looks very butch in his headband and chest-exposing leather waistcoat: he and Ann also share the same hairstyle. Anyway, this couple begin a romance as Trash finally finds the woman of his dreams and she exhibits brains too as she complains about the ethics of the arms business she has been born into. So what a pity she is kidnapped and her new boyfriend has to find her before Hammer does.
To confuse matters, the biggest gang leader around is played by Fred Williamson, better known as The Hammer, but he's not playing Hammer he's playing The Yoghurt - sorry, The Ogre. It seems kind of perverse to allow Morrow to adopt Fred's nickname, but there you go. It's also a pity we don't really get to see Fred and Vic in any scenes together, and they don't share the screen with Christopher Connelly either, so the bulk of the dramatics are on the shoulders of the less charismatic Trash. Couple that with a somewhat sluggish pace and you find yourself wishing for less earnest (and absurdly sweary) dialogue and more action. Luckily, Castellari delivers on the action front, but the odd lunacy aside (the tap-dancing, metal bowler hat brigade?!) we could have done with more, because the rest is listless at best. I thought 1990 was time for The Guru, though? Music by Walter Rizzati, which includes nose flute.
Y'know I've met people who worship this movie like the second coming. Castellari is a great action director, but despite its many, many fans - this isn't one of his best. It isn't even his best post-apocalypse movie. The New Barbarians also has Fred Williamson, plus a nine year old genius inventor, the lovely Anna Kanakis and one moment of history-making lunacy. It's the only Italian exploitation flick where the heroine doesn't get raped, but hero Giancarlo Prete does! Imagine Mad Max or Snake Plissken coping with that?!
24 May 2008
You know what I like about this movie, and 80s post-apocalyptic sci-fi in general? The heavy metal rocker hero is a believable tough guy. Once the 90s kicked in, pasty, trenchcoat-wearing goth types became the genre's heroes du jour. Seriously, who would you place bets on in a fight? Stick thin Keanu Reeves or a buff metal rocker? Rockers of the world unite - we need you back on the big screen!